Ravenclaw cowls and villages

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Medical school interviews (yes, we’re talking about that again. deal with it) have taught me a great deal many things, approximately 10% of which are related to medicine. Flying from city to city and living out of a suitcase has expanded my horizons (and credit card bill). I’ve learned that, contrary to popular belief, Chicago is in the Midwest and NOT the East coast, and that it is NOT the capital of Illinois (apparently, my geography education is comparable to that of a 2nd grader). I’ve been gambling in Las Vegas (Airport) and won $3 (and then lost $15. stupid triple double bonus poker). I even know how to get off one of those moving walkways without stumbling like an idiot.

All this to say, in these past couple months of flights and shuttles and overpriced airport parfaits, I’ve done a lot of new things. But the one thing that grounds me, the thing that gives me a little bit of home no matter where I go (aside from my emergency relief inhaler #albuterol) is my knitting. Yes, other than jury duty, 5 hours on an airplane is the perfect milieu for a long, soothing knitting session. And since I’ve already made a Gryffindor themed scarf, I thought I would move onto the (obviously) next best house:

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I present to you all my Ravenclaw cowl (Ravencowl), painted in the colors of blue and gold, just like the robes of the intellectually inclined Rowena Ravenclaw herself! Coincidentally, this cowl also sports the colors of my alma mater, so I guess it could represent that as well (Cal cowl). I knit this in fair isle fashion (i.e. Contintental style with the left hand and Western style with the right), and since I held both strands at the same time, this cowl is doubly thick, making it super plush and warm, just in time for the upcoming winter. Special thanks to my friend Vicky for volunteering to be a floating head.

Since I knew this cowl would take a ton of yarn to make, I decided to go a bit thrifty and used Berroco Vintage. You still get an acrylic feel when you touch it, but the nylon gives it a stretchy sheen. Also, if you look closely,

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you’ll realize that you cannot find the backside of this scarf. That’s because there isn’t one! Yes, this infinity cowl is infinite in every sense of the word. It is knit in a round, with the starting and ending rounds kitchener-ed up to create a donut of sorts. That means you can literally wear this every which way and the pattern will always be showing!

Now, it will come as no surprise to anyone that knitting has come up quite often during my medical school interviews. Aside from good grades and the 4 titanium screws on the left side of my skull, that’s pretty much the only other interesting thing about me. And while this topic has come up in different ways at different interviews, all of them eventually come to the question: How did you start knitting? My gut reaction is to respond, “with a long-tail cast-on,” (if you’re not chuckling, trust me, I just made a really good knitting joke) but the real answer is a much more embarrassing story. So, to avoid an unwanted trip down memory lane, I usually just say, “to impress a girl.”

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The real story is actually much more complicated than that, but for the sake of keeping my awkward nightmarish middle school days a thing of the past, I won’t go into much detail. All I’ll say is that it happened on a trip to the East Coast (or the Midwest, wherever Washington D.C. is) during a long bus ride, when this girl I liked, Angel (as much as I hate to deprive someone of being featured on my blog and of the fame and glory that would inevitably ensue, I figure I should get a head start on this whole HIPAA thing), started to crochet. I was immediately hooked (you can’t tell right now, but I am killing it with my knitter readers right now) and eager to learn more.

You can predict what happened next: We graduated middle school and the next thing I knew, we never saw each other again (she went to a high school half a mile away from mine, so distance became a huge issue). But her love of yarn seemed to stick with me and, as evidenced by this blog, has come a part of the masculiknitter I am today.

To be honest, I never really thought much of how I began knitting until I was asked at an interview. I always assumed that admissions committees would want to know what I was knitting now and why I was knitting now. But as more and more people have brought it up, I’ve started to think back to that era of my life and (between the moments of cringing) wonder how my life (or at least my choice in hobbies) could have gone in other directions. What if Angel had brought a camera with her on that trip, would I be applying to medical school as an expert photographer (oh wait, I already am one!)? Or what if she’d been reading Pride and Prejudice (she was that kind of girl), would I have turned into a hardcore Jane Austen fan 10 years later (emmasculinity.wordpress.com)?

But then I think about what happened after that bus ride, and how Angel was only the first step. Because after her there was Izzy, my bad ass harpist classmate who was on the same trip as Angel and me and showed me her knitting needles after she saw me crocheting. And then there was Auntie Alice (and when I say auntie, I don’t mean, like, actual auntie. I mean it like the way Asian people use it, which is more meaningful I think), my dad’s co-worker who fixed my first afghan via telephone while I was in the middle of the Grand Canyon. And there’s also “that lady from the yarn shop,” who taught me the importance of knitting swatches and how to correctly measure bust size.

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Oh yeah, and there’s also this woman, my mom, who birthed me and set this crazy, yarn-filled journey in motion to begin with. Aside from being the only mom at Beverly’s who was dragged there by her son (and not vice versa like every other mother-son pair in the store), she has proudly worn every one of my knitting endeavors and has even gone to work in them, where she is no doubt judged by her fashion forward colleagues and clients.

There’s a saying, “it takes a village…” (I’m not too sure what the second part of that adage is because everyone just assumes you know it), which I believe means something to the effect of, “there are a lot of people that go into making you who you are.” And if I had to guess, I’d say that my village would be like one of those Amazonian warrior women tribes. Not because of the whole lobbing off of the breast to become better at throwing weapons thing, but just because my life has been shaped by women. From classmates to PTO moms to even my own mother, these women have, in more ways than they know, left their print on me (and let’s not forget the men who have shaped me as well, like Kai, who broke my head. thanks a lot, man).

About a month ago, I received my first acceptance into medical school. I was notified by phone by one of my interviewers, a very pleasant woman who also happened to be a fellow knitter. When I tell people this, many comment on how fortunate I was to be interviewed by someone who shares my interests. And I have to agree, the fact that I was able to connect with my interviewer over something so mundane as knitting has, yet again, allowed a yarn-working woman to guide my next steps. A career in medicine, now more than ever, has become a foreseeable future because of her.

There’s a saying, “it takes a village…” and I believe mine just got a little bigger.

***Emma, written by Jane Austen, was published in 1815.

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